BRADENTON -- Circuit Court Judge Stephen Dakan will allow Robert Gagnon's lawsuit against the Manatee County School District on charges of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress to go to court.
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Two of the five counts in Gagnon's lawsuit -- which relate to breach of contract and interference with a contract -- were dismissed by Dakan after hearing arguments from lawyers on both sides. Dakan allowed Gagnon an opportunity to amend and refile those counts within 20 days.
Gagnon and his lawyers plan to do so, Gagnon said after the hearing.
"We've been fighting for justice and the truth for three years," he said. "We're going to continue to pursue justice and the truth however long it takes."
A fifth count -- loss of consortium -- was left open as it relates to the other counts.
A motion by the Manatee County School Board to strike certain allegations in the lawsuit, which board lawyers argued had nothing to do with the case, was granted.
Gagnon, a former Manatee High School principal and a former assistant superintendent, and his wife, Melissa Gagnon, an assistant principal at Braden River High School, began pursuing legal action against the board in February. The first suit was partially dismissed by Circuit Court Judge John Lakin in July but left open to amend. The amended suit was filed in October.
The case arises from Gagnon's dismissal from the district during the Roderick Frazier child abuse scandal.
The Gagnons filed the defamation case against the school board and individually against then-Superintendent Rick Mills; Troy Pumphrey, district investigator at the time; former school board member Julie Aranibar; and school board member Karen Carpenter.
The school board, Carpenter, Aranibar and Mills were all represented by Fred Moore. Pumphrey had his own lawyer.
Moore argued the entire lawsuit should be dismissed, saying all the district officials' actions were within their orbit of authority, making it privileged against defamation lawsuits.
"We shouldn't get past this stage," he said. "It should be decided now."
Corey Friedman, a lawyer for the Gagnons, said the case was no longer about any type of molestation but was instead a case of political assassination.
"That's why we're here today," he said.
Friedman argued the motion for dismissal did not meet the proper burden.
"They've not met that burden," he said.
Gagnon was acquitted in criminal court on charges related to the Frazier case. Gagnon was also cleared by an administrative judge, who said the district failed to show enough evidence Gagnon violated any law, rule or board policy.
The board has since reimbursed Gagnon for back pay and legal fees, but he has not been rehired.
Aranibar lost her seat on the school board in November 2014 to Mary Cantrell.
Mills left his contract as superintendent and retired early. Mills was replaced by Diana Greene, who formerly served as the deputy superintendent of instruction.
Pumphrey was placed on administrative leave in January after allegations he lied on his resume when applying to work in the district. His one-year contract with the district was not renewed and he is no longer employed by the district.
Pumphrey has filed his own lawsuit against the board and individually against board member Dave Miner.
In his suit, Pumphrey claims he was denied a promotion even though he was qualified, he has been discriminated against because he is black and his reputation has been irreparably damaged.
The district has also filed to dismiss Pumphrey's lawsuit, which was moved to federal court.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.